After a relatively well-organised and peaceful day of voting in Solomon Islands, the electoral commission is working with donor partners to safely transport ballot boxes from polling stations all over the country to centrally located counting venues.

It is a massive exercise with over 200 New Zealand Defence Force personnel providing logistical support across the 29,000 square kilometre sprawling island chain to ensure that those who want to vote have an opportunity to do so.

Chief electoral officer Jasper Anisi said there were some preliminary processes to be completed once all ballot boxes were accounted for, but he expected counting to begin on Thursday.

“Mostly it will be verification of ballot boxes and ballot papers from the polling stations. But once verification is done then counting will automatically start,” Anisi said.

So, what were the big election issues for Solomon Islanders at the polls on Wednesday?

A lack of government services, poor infrastructure development and the establishment of diplomatic ties with China are some of the things voters in the capital Honiara told RNZ Pacific they cared about on Wednesday.

Timothy Vai said he was unhappy with the former government’s decision to cut ties with Taiwan in 2019 so it could establish ties with China.

“I want to see a change. My aim in voting now is for a new government. Because we are a democratic country, but we shifted [diplomatic ties] to a communist country,” Vai said.

Another voter, Minnie Kasi, wanted leaders to do more for herself and her community.

“My voting experience was good. I came to vote for the right person.

“Over the past four years I did not see anything delivered by the person I voted for last time which is why I am voting for the person I voted for today,” Kasi said.

While Ethel Manera felt there was a lack of development and basic government services in her constitutency.

“Some infrastructure and sanitation [projects] they have not developed, and they are still yet to develop and that is what I see should be developed in our country,” Manera said.

This is the first time the country has conducted simultaneous voting for national and provincial election candidates.

Anisi has said they would start by tallying the provincial results.

“The provincial results we count in wards,” he said.

“So, wards have smaller numbers compared to the constituencies, so you need to count all the wards in order to get the constituency number.”

Some visiting political experts and local commentators in Honiara think delaying the announcement of the national election results might pose a security risk if it takes too long and voters grow impatient.

But others say it is a good strategy because historically supporters of national candidates who win hold noisy public celebrations and if this is done first it could disrupt the counting of provincial results.

Meanwhile, The Solomon Islands Electoral Commission (SIEC) has declared the first results of the 2024 Joint Election.

The results are for two Provincial Wards are Anuta Ward in Temotu and Tirotonga Ward in Isabel and the Honiara City Council Kukum Ward.

The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) and Commissioner Jasper Highwood Anisi declared that the winning candidate for Anuta Ward is Fenua John Wesley, Tiritonga Ward Leo James Teimana and Robert Oge for Kukum Ward.

CEO Anisi confirmed that the three winning candidates have met all eligibility requirements.

The declaration of the winning candidates came after the respective Returning Officers for the three wards confirmed Wednesday under Regulation 23 (a) of the Provincial Assemblies and Honiara City Council Election Regulation 2024.

SIEC also added that all sealed ballot boxes will be transported to respective provincial headquarters under the watch of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) waiting for counting starting tomorrow.

Meanwhile, in a press conference after the closure of the polls, CEO Anisi acknowledged all the voters, contesting candidates, supporters the general public for the peaceful turnout today.

The Solomon Islands Electoral Commission (SIEC) is an independent Constitutional Electoral Management Body that is responsible for voter registration and the conduct of elections at the Parliamentary, Provincial Assemblies, and Honiara City Council levels.